Suva, Fiji - Parliamentarians and members of Fijian civil society organizations (CSOs) have commenced their analysis and scrutiny of the 2021-2022 National Budget which was presented by the Fijian Government on 16 July 2021.
Forty (40) budget briefs, a series of concise summary of sectoral budget categories and cross-cutting issues in the budget, have been provided to the CSOs for their analysis and discussions with communities. The budget briefs were produced by a team of parliament researchers from across the Pacific region with the support of the UN Development Programme (UNDP). The budget briefs have also been provided to all Members of Parliament (MPs) to assist them in their preparation for budget debates in Parliament scheduled for the week of 26 July 2021.
During the briefing session with CSOs conducted online on Friday 23 July 2021, discussions centered on the overall analysis and a few thematic budget items namely, COVID-19, gender equality and climate risks.
Speaking at the opening of the budget briefing, the Speaker of the Parliament of the Republic of Fiji, Honourable Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, acknowledged the presence of CSO representatives. He said the event was part of the Fijian Parliament’s effort to continue to strengthen the openness of Parliament and contribute to inclusive budgetary processes.
“Beyond the crucial information you possess and collect through your work, CSOs are also knowledgeable of the lessons learnt from past budgets. You understand the successes and failures of current initiatives. You document the expectations and challenges of fellow citizens, including the most marginalized,” the Honourable Speaker said.
He added that, to be effective and relevant, a national budget should be guided by and respond to the needs of citizens, priorities and context.
The comprehensive budget briefs were produced by the team of researchers from the Fijian Parliament Research and Library Services and Committees teams, Parliaments of the Solomon Islands, New Zealand and the Parliament of the Australian State of Victoria, through the “Pacific Floating Budget Office”. It brings together parliament staff from around the Pacific to assist in the budget analysis of each county.
The “Pacific Floating Budget Office” and budget briefing was convened by UNDP with support from the Governments of Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the European Union. Since it commenced in 2016, it has assisted Parliaments and CSOs in Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu, to produce budget briefs with analysis and non-technical language accessible to citizens. Due to the impact of COVID-19 on travels, the “Pacific Floating Budget Office” has been operating online since 2020.
Oversight of national budgets is one of the key functions that MPs are responsible for as representatives of the citizens in the democratic governance system. MPs need to ensure the budget is allocated based on evidence and data and aligns to national sustainable development policies.
CSOs play a vital role in bridging people and Parliament by sharing crucial information with people on public finances and informing Parliament of the priorities of people’s needs, especially to ensure the rights of people in vulnerable circumstances. Equipped with analysis on key issues in the presented budget, CSOs conduct their own scrutiny and consultations with communities.
Mr. Levan Bouadze, Resident Representative for the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji acknowledged that the budget analysis was an important exercise in normal times and has become even more urgent due to the complexity of the COVID-19 crisis which had made it difficult for governments and parliaments to deal with different priorities.
“We are pleased that the Parliament of Fiji has chosen to continue to hold these sessions despite all the challenges. It needs to be commended by engaging with civil society in this matter,” said Mr. Bouadze.
The budget briefs developed for parliamentarians and shared with members of CSOs make the budget process more inclusive and transparent. It contributes to Sustainable Development target 16.7 which is a commitment to ensuring responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.
For media queries, please contact:
Bale Dolokoto, Civic Education and Media Unit, Parliament of the Republic of Fiji
Tomoko Kashiwazaki, Communications and Advocacy, Effective Governance Team, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji. Email: email@example.com